Feeling Depressed? Wake Up Just 1 Hour Earlier!
A new genetic study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry on May 26 reveals that waking up one hour earlier can reduce a person’s chance of serious depression by 23%.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and hence the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard studied 840,000 people and found some of the best evidence yet that chronotype (chronotype is an individual’s proclivity to sleep at a specific time) influences depression risk.
It’s also among the primary studies to quantify just what proportion, or little, change is required to influence the psychological state.
During this pandemic period many people changed their daily routine. Many started to work from home and learn from home. Eventually, this led many to shift to a later sleep schedule. So the above-mentioned research findings could have important implications.
For some time scientists knew that there is a relationship between sleep timing and mood. But they were never sure about how much time someone needs to go to bed to ascertain a benefit?. Finally, they found that even one hour earlier sleep timing is related to a significantly lower risk of depression.
Previous observational studies showed that night owls (People who are going to bed later than the average) are likely to suffer from depression as twice as early risers, no matter how long they sleep. But because mood disorders themselves can disrupt sleep patterns, researchers have had a tough time deciphering what causes what.
Other studies have had small sample sizes, relied on questionnaires from the one-time point, or didn’t account for environmental factors which may influence both sleep timing and mood, potentially confounding results.
Research done in 2018 with 32,000 nurses showed that “early risers” were up to 27% less likely to develop depression. These studies begged the question: What does it mean to be an early riser?
To get a clearer idea on this, lead author Iyas Daghlas, M.D.analyzed the data from the DNA testing company “23 and Me” and therefore the biomedical database UK Biobank. Daghlas then used a way called “Mendelian randomization” that leverages genetic associations to assist decipher the cause and the effect.
More than 340 common genetic variants, including variants within the so-called “clock gene” PER2, are known to influence an individual’s chronotype, and genetics collectively explains 12-42% of our sleep timing preference.
The researchers analyzed genetic data on these variants from up to 850,000 individuals (85,000 of them had worn wearable sleep trackers for 7 days and 250,000 of them had filled out sleep-preference questionnaires) This gave them a more granular picture, right down to the hour, of how variants in genes influence once we sleep and awaken.
In the largest of those samples, a few third of surveyed subjects self-identified as morning larks, 9% were night owls and therefore the rest were within the middle. Overall, the typical sleep mid-point was 3 a.m., meaning they visited bed at 11 p.m. and got up at 6 a.m.
With this information in hand, the researchers turned to a special sample including genetic information alongside anonymized medical and prescription records and surveys about diagnoses of major clinical depression.
Using novel statistical techniques they tried to find an answer to a very important question. And that question was; Do people with genetic variants, which predispose them to be early risers, have a lower risk of depression?
The answer was a firm yes.
Each one-hour earlier sleep is considered to be lowering the risk of major clinical depression by 23%.
According to the results, we can come to a conclusion that if someone who normally goes to bed at 01.00 a.m. goes to bed at 12.00 a.m. instead and sleeps an equivalent duration, they might cut their risk by 23%. Similarly, if they are going to bed at 11 p.m., they might cut it by about 40%.
It’s unclear from the study whether those that are already early risers may benefit from getting up even earlier. except for those within the intermediate range or evening range, shifting to an earlier bedtime would likely be helpful.
What could explain this effect?
Some research suggests that getting greater light exposure during the day, which early-risers tend to urge, leads to a cascade of hormonal impacts which will influence mood.
Others note that having a mechanism, or biological time, that trends differently than most peoples’ can in itself be depressing.
“We sleep in a society that’s designed for morning people, and evening people often feel as if they’re during a constant state of misalignment thereupon societal clock,” said Daghlas.
He stresses that an outsized randomized clinical test is important to work out definitively whether getting to bed early can reduce depression. This study definitely gives evidence supporting the effect of sleep timing on depression.
For those eager to shift themselves to an earlier sleep schedule, Vetter offers this advice:
“Keep your days bright and your nights dark,” she says. “Have your morning coffee on the porch. Walk or ride your bike to figure if you’ll, and dim those electronics within the evening.”